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About me!

My name is Derek Ludlow, I was 25 years old when I went to Madagascar, and I am from Canada.
Like many people visiting this site, I am a travelling addict. I love to get as many new experiences abroad as possible. Additionally, I have worked in international development and am extremely interested in conservation. Going to Madagascar with WWF and helping to advance the projects in the district of Ivohibe was a dream!
Me with Ivohibe Pic in the background 
© WWF / Derek Ludlow
Me with Ivohibe Pic in the background
© WWF / Derek Ludlow
Learning and doing
I learned many things while in Madagascar. As somebody with a business and international development background, I was very interested in the human approach to conservation that the WWF takes. The district of Ivohibe straddles the edge of the Malagasy jungle and the people in the area traditionally practised slash and burn agriculture. This meant that in order to eat, they needed to destroy their natural environment. Simply banning this kind of practise would be short sighted. When people are starving, it is difficult to convince them to protect their natural resources. An alternative is needed.
The WWF has therefore begun to form local associations who have as their mission to restore the forest and help develop their communities. They take members of these associations and teach them agricultural techniques that vastly increase output. In the test phase of SRI (intensive rice production) many farmers were able to produce five times as much with less effort! Many of the locals are now also producing honey, fish, and a wider variety of vegetables than before. They are planting indigenous trees to re-establish the original forests and also fast-growing eucalyptus for wood and for fire. While they are still not rich, they have much more than they did before.

Some communities have even begun to reinvest into things like carpentry lessons and improvements to their roads. These are highly motivated people who are becoming defenders of their natural environments.

Advice for those to follow
If anybody wants to work with the WWF in Madagascar, or with any organization anywhere, I would recommend doing it.

If you want an incredible experience, are willing to work hard to make a difference, and don’t mind a little bit of mud, then you have nothing but great opportunities. There is a lot of incredible work being done around the world and the WWF is one of the key NGOs. Working with them is a great chance to learn, help, and have fun while doing it. 

If you are worried that your CV doesn’t fit a conservation organization but you feel that you have something to offer anyway, apply. It is most definitely worth it.

Want to know anything else?

Some of my photos
Take a look at my video...

Many people think of "development" and "conservation" as competing concepts. When you travel to remote regions of the world, many of us would rather see them preserved completely.

In the forests east of the region of Ivohibe, Madagascar, we can see that the local population is struggling to make ends meet. People in this situation cannot defend their environments. As such, development actually becomes a priority for international conservation organizations such as the WWF.

When seeing the situation that the people in this area lived in, I immediately wanted to make my movie about their efforts to improve their situation and the WWF's mission to help along the way.

French, Spanish, and Malagasy versions will be uploaded shortly.

For those interested in having a similar experience, please visit the WWF International website and follow the links to the Explore volunteer programme.